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A few weekends ago, Bill and I curled up on our basement sofa and watched a couple of ultramarathon documentaries on Netflix. We were inspired to make time to run on the Appalachian Trail to McAfee Knob on our recent trip to Southwestern Virginia and left our home bright and early last Wednesday morning to fit in a run before losing sun to the earlier fall sunsets.

White Blaze of the Appalachian Trail

White Blaze of the Appalachian Trail


We may not have traveled along the trail anywhere nearly as quickly as the following ultramarathon greats, but I like to think we had a little more time to take in the beautiful sights as we followed the white blazes on the short section we ran to McAfee Knob. Our times may have been significantly slower, but I suspect that at this point none of the record breakers were having as much fun!


Scott Jurek Brought Attention to the AT

Perhaps the most famous, at least to me, ultramarathoner to run the Appalachian Trail in an effort to become the fastest person to complete the 2,189 mile journey through 14 states from Maine to Georgia was 41-year-old Scott Jurek. Scott broke the 4-year-old record in 2015 and wrote about his adventures in North:  Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail (affiliate link).


Made to be Broken with Karl Meltzer

In 2016, 49-year-old ultramarathoner Karl Meltzer set on a journey running along the Appalachian Trail in an effort to break Scott Jurek’s 2015 record of 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes. Ultramarathoners are a tight group, and what might be most surprising is that Scott helped Karl plan and even accompanied him on a leg as Karl was attempting to break Scott’s short-lived record (Karl had helped crew and run with Scott for two weeks during his record breaking run).

Karl succeeded and broke Scott’s record on September 18, 2016 with a time of 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. Where Scott ran from south to north, Karl chose to run from north to south.


To get a real sense of how intense the journey was you can watch the entire documentary by clicking here.


But Wait, Along Came Joe McConaughy Without a Support Crew

Believe it or not, Karl’s record was broken on August 31, 2017 by 26-year-old Joe McConaughy who ran the trail un-supported. Joe completed all 2,189 miles in 45 days, 12 hours, and 15 minutes while carrying a 25-pound backpack filled with his food, clothing, sleeping, and medical supplies; and in the process, beat Karl’s record by 10 hours and 41 minutes. Where Karl had support from a crew, Joe ran self-supported.


Another Year and Another Record, this Time by Karel Sabbe

On Aug 29, 2018, 28-year-old Belgium’a Karel Sabbe broke Joe’s record with a time of 41 days, 7 hours, and 39 minutes. Sabbe, a supported thru-hiker, also holds the Pacific Crest Trail speed record.


In Summary

These days, it seems like each year a new record is being set…

  • 2005 – Andrew Thompson (supported) 47 days, 13 hours, and 31 minutes (north to south)
  • 2011 – Jennifer Pharr Davis (supported) 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes (north to south)
  • 2015 – Scott Jurek (supported) – 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes (north to south)
  • 2016 – Karl Meltzer (supported) – 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes (south to north)
  • 2017 – Joe McConaughy (self-supported) – 45 days, 12 hours, and 15 minutes (south to north)
  • 2018 – Karel Sabbe (supported) – 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes (south to north)

It’s worth noting that Joe McConaughy holds the self-supported (or unsupported) record and beat the 2013 record of 58 days, 9 hours, and 40 minutes set by Matt Kirk by 12 days, 21 minutes, and 25 minutes.


  • Questions:
  • Did you see this documentary?
  • Have you run an ultra? If so what distance? ~ I ran the JFK 50-Miler in 1997.
  • Have you hiked or run on any sections on the Appalachian Trail?